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Council of Elvira
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Held early in the fourth century at Elliberis, or Illiberis, in Spain, a city now in ruins not far from Granada. It was, so far as we know, the first council held in Spain, and was attended by nineteen bishops from all parts of the Peninsula. The exact year in which it was held is a matter of controversy upon which much has been written. Some copies of its Acts contain a date which corresponds with the year 324 of our reckoning; by some writers the council has accordingly been assigned to that year. Hardouin suggests 313, Mansi 309, and Hefele 305 or 306. Recent opinion (Duchesne, see below) would put the date considerably earlier, from 300 to 303, consequently previous to the persecution of Diocletian. The principal bishop attending the council was the famous Hosius of Cordova. Twenty-six priests are also recorded as sitting with the bishops. Its eighty-one canons were, however, subscribed only by the bishops. These canons, all disciplinary, throw much light on the religious and ecclesiastical life of Spanish Christians on the eve of the triumph of Christianity. They deal with marriage, baptism, idolatry, fasting, excommunication, the cemeteries, usury, vigils, frequentation of Mass, the relations of Christians with pagans, Jews, heretics, etc. In canon xxxiii we have, says Hefele (op. cit. below), the oldest positive ecclesiastical ordinance concerning the celibacy of the clergy. Canon xiii exhibits the institution of nuns ( virgines Deo sacratae ) as long familiar to Spain. Canon xxxvi (placuit picturas in ecclesia esse non debere ne quod colitur et adoratur in parietibus depingatur) has often been urged against the veneration of images as practised in the Catholic Church. Binterim, De Rossi , and Hefele interpret this prohibition as directed against the use of images in overground churches only, lest the pagans should caricature sacred scenes and ideas ; Von Funk, Termel, and Dom Leclerq opine that the council did not pronounce as to the liceity or non-liceity of the use of images, but as an administrative measure simply forbade them, lest new and weak converts from paganism should incur thereby any danger of relapse into idolatry, or be scandalized by certain superstitious excesses in no way approved by the ecclesiastical authority. (See Von Funk in "Tübingen Quartalschrift", 1883, 270-78; Nolte in "Rev. des Sciences ecclésiastiques", 1877, 482-84; Turmel in "Rev. du clergé français", 1906, XLV, 508.) Several other canons of this council offer much interest to students of Christian archaeology. (See text and commentary in Hefele - Leclercq, "Hist. des Conciles." I, 212 sqq.)
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